Monday, February 23, 2015

List: 'One Unique Thing' for your NPCs

We've all got them. The random NPC we just threw in for players to get some information from, who has absolutely nothing to do with the plot, yet the players automatically latch on to. Often, I feel a sense of panicked bewilderment when this happens. A feeling of of, what did I do? Did I raise my eyebrow one too many times? Was it my fault for giving this guy a name... but I give everyone names!

I will accept this no longer! +Red Dice Diaries made a really great Youtube video about creating one unique thing for your player character. The basic idea being, add something to your character that sets them apart from everyone else, but does not help you mechanically.

I have created a list of 'One Unique Things' for my supernatural/fantasy campaign NPCs. So when my PCs, sinking into my convoluted master plot, of which I have only planned the bare bones of, decide that some random poor schmuck has depth of character - he can have depth of character!

I've made plenty of them so, if you like surprises like I do, roll 2d6 and use the one unique thing that relates to the number. For example a (2) & (6) would be 26.

(11) They were buried alive and survived
(12) They aren't in their own body and need to get back
(13) They were kept in a closet for half their life (I like to call this one the Potter)
(14) As a child they had an invisible friend and they still see them sometimes
(15) They survived a near death experience and now they can see ghosts
(16) Half of their body is horribly burnt
(17) They've kicked an addiction and struggle with it daily
(18) They've escape a cult (thanks John)
(19) They have gambling debts they've never paid
(20) Someone accidentally died because of them
(21) They have a stalker
(22) They have lost exactly one week of their life, waking up in a bathtub with no memory of what happened
(23) Their parents died when they were a child, they were raised by a cruel aunt/uncle
(24) Their lover is caught in a death-like sleep till they can free them
(25) People appear to them like skeletons and zombies, the world is terrifying
(26) They somehow survived a mass murder of their family, waking up covered in blood with bodies around them
(27) The character is a demon forced to live in mortal form for the rest of their years, never able to do anything close to what they could do before.
(28) The person is possessed by a ghost who is trying to take full control of their body
(29) They person used to be a member of a cult, but they escaped
(30) This person's skin reacts to water, burning them (the wicked witch)
(31) They are an empty shell of a person, only mimicking human emotion and not truly feeling it.
(32) They have a second eye growing out of their neck, at night they swear it is open
(33) They are plagued by tiny goblins who play wicked tricks on them at night
(34) They are addicted to a deadly drug
(35) They have horrible nightmares of how they will die
(36) They are being hunted by a supernatural creature for stealing their young
(37) The know someone from (insert name of PC here)'s past, but do not want to reveal it
(38) They are from another time (Medieval, the future, Victorian era)
(39) They've formed a creepy fan club for (insert name of PC here) and will show up randomly trying to insert themselves into the PC's life
(40) They were kidnapped as a child and still live with their captors
(41) They are slightly magnetic, this isn't enough to do anything useful, but things like paperclips stick to them
(42) Dogs hate them, cats love them
(43) In any reflective surface they look like a skeleton
(44) Old women are unusually attracted to them
(45) The character has a tendency to break anything given to them, by mistake
(46) They are technically a prince/princess
(47) If someone says 'eggsalad' they go insane and cannot be calmed till they are knocked out
(48) They have a very large doll collection that whispers to them at night. One morning they woke up and they had been bathed & dressed in fine clothing.
(49) They are a member of a gang
(50) They are an identical twin, sometimes they find it hard to distinguish between their thoughts and their siblings, as if they were the same person.
(51)The room they are in is always precisely 1 degree colder than it's surroundings
(52) They tried a strange dish while dining out one night and now they hunger for human flesh
(53) They are a selkie who has lost their skin
(54) They cast no shadow
(55) They are a result of a genetic experiment and because of gene splicing are half wolf (instincts, emotions, etc.)
(56) Though an adult, they can regress quickly into being a child
(57) They own a ring that they can never take off, at night it whispers, "killlllllll"
(58) There is a tattoo of an angry fish on their body that moves to a new place when touched, they received it after getting an all time high score on a Pachinko
(59) Instead of burping they say things in a demonic language, they don't know what it means
(60) They were granted three wishes by a genie, they could only make one wish before they lost the genie, and that was to always have perfect hair.
(61) They were a child prodigy who fell short in adult life
(62) When clipped their fingernails will slowly grow a new version of themselves with no memory (the s4ep2)
(63) Their most prized possession is a ball collection and they will go to any lengths to gain a new object for their collection
(64) Their finger acts like a mini Tesla coil when flicked
(65) As a child they were cursed by an evil fairy to be unlucky in love
(66) The character owns two pet ravens named Hugh and Monty

Check out John's original video here:

Monday, February 16, 2015

So you've botched again...

Hi, my name is Liz.
(This is where you say hi Liz)
Last night I botched for the thrid time in a row.

We've all had these moments. Botching is always bad, botching three times in a row and the only logical course of action is your character to lie on the floor so they can’t hurt anything else, is horrible.

The Dice Gods are cruel, especially when it comes to combat. Normally, I play in relatively diceless games, however, sometimes you just need to smash something over the head with a club and this is when my friends and I get out our dice. While we would all like to think that we botch because the Dice-y Ones above hate our guts, it really is just random. Therefore, brothers and sisters, I am here to show you another way. I am here to preach the gospel of botching!

The idea is simple and one I have adopted after years of playing whilst spectacularly botching. Each time that I botch multiple times in a row, I make a significant change in my character's life and personality. The first time this happened it was very much organic.

I was playing my beloved Goliath Barbarian Tali at a 4e D&D Battle Interactive. Tali was a boisterous hot headed goliath, who travelled the world with her best friend a gnome wizard. Together they kicked ass, took names, and were mostly into adventuring for the lols. During the big boss fight my player was the damaging machine for her party and we were fighting a red dragon plus it minions. Tali ends up botching on her daily I'ma gonna f*** a b**** up power and things just go downhill from there. It wasn't a total TPK, the rogue got away.

Tali (and I) felt like a failure. Everyone around Tali was pretty puny and she was the big hitter who was meant to protect everyone. So, waking up blood stained and broken on the battlefield. Tali decided for a change. She realized she had taken her oath to Tempus too lightly. She only decided to worship him in the first place because he supported tons of fighting. 

So, on the battlefield Tali made a promise, an oath, to change her ways and only fight with honour (for the lols no longer!) To hone the rage within herself, sharpen it, and release it on those who were dishonourable and fought for the forces of evil.

Now, Tali and I made a pretty epic pact - but D&D is a pretty epic game. I am not suggesting that people should change their entire character concept, but the dice being totally random and punishing you doesn't have to be a bad thing. Since you control your character, it is hard to be surprised with how you react to certain situations. Mechanically failing so badly is something that can break you from that, make you re-think your character, and find a new personality trait they never realized before. 

Also, getting some story and character development out of it, makes botching a lot more exciting. It forces you to be creative in a way that you never thought possible and a cool character change makes something bad into something fun.

Have you ever botched so badly, or so frequently, that you decided to make a change with your character? Tell me about it!

Monday, February 9, 2015

Falling in love with your best friend

For about four years I had a really intense love affair with my best friend, in a pretend world where she was a vampire and I was a demon. I thought it would be fun to talk about our experiences and so we had a little interview!

I met Renee through our student club when I asked if there were any players interested in playing a game of Vampire the Masquerade I wanted to run. Renee was one of the people who answered that call and we played a really epic chronicle with our friends that lasted for four years. Within the space of those four years Renee and I played out a love affair between her and a NPC.

LizSo, Renee! I love you, but I am not in love with you. I guess you pretty much knew that, right? Anyway, to start off with can you tell everyone a bit about the IC love story and eventual triangle of Blanca, Issac, and Gewain? 

Renee: I'm very happy to hear you're not in love with me, because that would be awkward. The love story of Issac and Blanca was neither simple nor short as it spread throughout our three-plus year chronicle. It started in late nineteenth century London, where Blanca was struggling with the discovery that she wasn't a Lasombra. She found Issac at an Elysium where he was basically a living bloodbag and decided to take him home.

This is where the trouble started. Issac and Blanca were very much unsuited for each other, and their romance involved lots of passion and slamming doors. The pack travelled to Greece and Issac got kidnapped by a demon. Blanca tried  to save him, but then he got possessed by a demon and he left. 

Heartbroken, Blanca moved heaven and earth (and literally dragged her pack to a hell dimension) to find him and expel the demon. She succeeded after several decades, but Issac couldn't remember anything and he left her to die a natural death.

Struggling to move on, Blanca helped soldiers during WWII. During this time she met Gewain, a Malkavian who occasionally thought he was Sir Gewain (from Arthurian legedend). All was well between them until Issac (still possessed the exorcism hadn’t truly worked) showed up again for the end of days. Of course Blanca chose the unhealthy, but epic romance with Issac over the stable loving Gewain. It was a no-brainer.

During Gehanna, Issac carried Blanca off into the sunlight when her time had come. 

So yeah a lot of drama happened, but this has been one of the most profound roleplay experiences I have ever had and it's one that still breaks my heart when I think about it (it's like worse than the Red Wedding). How was it for you to play my lover? 

Liz: When we talked in person I said like one paragraph Renee! But fair enough their love was a saga, I'll give you that.

Thinking about Blanca and Issac just makes me sad, but in a happy way. I was super invested in their relationship and when I think back on how it felt, I feel like wow that is so weird! I slipped into the role of Issac really easily, because I discovered who Issac was while playing - due to him being a tabula rasa at the start of the game. Oddly enough, I really feel like playing being in love with each other made you my best friend. Since we took the Blanca and Issac relation pretty damn seriously, I really got to know you OC through it. That is something I never thought would happen in a role play. 

So, here's a tricky question - if you had to date Gewain or Issac in real life, who would you choose?

Renee: Wow, that is an incredibly hard question. Both are definitely hot.

Gewain is this prefect man. He is kind, caring, and patient. In all aspects he is an amazing guy to spend the rest of your life with. When he and I would be grey and old he will still bring in the romance. Issac on the other hand is much more dark and twisty. He is exciting, bit there'd be many things we'd butt heads about. I don't think it's a relationship that would last. It would be one with many break ups and getting back together cause you can't stay away from each other. In real life I would date either one, but Gewain would be the one I'd build a life with. Much like Blanca did.

Like you I was very invested in the Blanca-Issac relationship and I agree that it really brought us together as friends and that is something I value very much. Yet I also don't ever want to be this invested in an rp relationship again, cause it was also very painful. How do feel about this?

Liz: Btw I would totally choose Gewain! But you know I like the good guys. Every time I see someone in movies, books, or TV series going for the bad guy I am like:   

Vampire Diaries Stefan or Damon? Pssht, please, Matt Donovan. True Blood: Eric or Bill? Alcide, thank you very much! Interview with the Vampire: Lestat or Armand. Louis, you really need to just be alone for a while to figure yourself out.

Okay, I am done my rant.

To answer your question :P I don't know I have never thought of it. The romance between Issac and Blanca happened really naturally and I am kind of put off by trying another relationship like it, mostly because it felt so real to me, I don't think another would, but who knows?

Going from that, what is your most memorable moment with Issac or Gewain in the chronicle?

Renee: I really have to think about this. It's easy to go to the painful moments, like when Blanca finally got Issac back and he had lost his memory, but Blanca kept having dreams that all turned out like she'd hoped. But that doesn't do justice to the whole relationship. So many things come to mind: the origami flowers he used to make with the love notes in them, Issac standing up for Blanca after her pack staked her. But also the brief times when Blanca saw him after he'd been possessed. 

With Gewain I have far less of these moments. But I think that's also because it was a far more forced rp relationship than the Blanca-Issac one. In the end Issac is her true love. 

It's really weird to think back on how natural this all felt. To be honest I can't imagine have had this experience with anyone but you. I've been thinking a bit about the how and the why. For one you and I became good friends really fast and I think that made way for having this love story develop so naturally in the campaign. Like we were getting to know each other as friends and had a pretty good connection from the start which meant there was enough trust to let this happen. 

Your boyfriend was also part of the chronicle. Was it for you ever weird to have this love story going on and also have your rl boyfriend be there?

Liz: Nah, it wasn't weird for me. I mean, what I find to be a real loving relationship is so different than what Blanca and Issac had. I think they had the type of romance that is breathless and fleeting. The kind the consumes you and people write really bad novels about.

Also, playing a guy, made  it was easy for me to separate. Cause you are my friend and I love you I could bring that into my role, but it didn't feel like a real romance that was happening to me - it was happening to Issac. It felt like I was watching this amazing TV show and I just needed to see what happened afterwards. Haha, also - Erik hated Issac, so it was hilarious to talk to him after the sessions about it. I would be like omg such romance and Erik would be like Issac is such a douchebag! He just didn't get it, I was like Erik what they have is reaaaallllllll!

How was it talking to your boyfriend about it? Did he get it?

Renee: Haha yeah I remember Erik's outrage when Blanca choose Issac over Gewain. I suppose from a guy perspective Issac is kind of a douchebag, but then again many girls do fall for the Damons and Lestats of this world. 

I never really talk about roleplay with Danny. It's not very interesting to hear about that if you have played through it, or seen it. Kinda like when some rants about their favorite tv show you've never seen. I also don't talk to Danny about all the drama in Grey's Anatomy. 

Also, he doesn't really get why I play vampire at all. He thinks we take it way too seriously and I guess he kinda has a point there, cause vampire is serious business O_o.

As a GM you have like all the control over the plot of the overall story. What was your favorite choice for Blanca's love life?

Liz: That is sooooo easy and also one of my more evil happenstance moments as a GM. I remember when Blanca and Ama went to fight the evil circus and of course Issac was there, Blanca and Ama got into a fight with this demon girl and one of you botched. I remember thinking, shit this is a really important moment and I want to have a cool botch. Then Floor (who played Ama) exclaimed, "Oh no! She (the demon) just portaled next to Issac!" You both looked horrified, as if I actually realized where I was portaling my demon NPC and I meant to land her right next to your lover.

The next choice was easy, I just thought to myself, well now they're expecting me to take him anyway. That's when I decided for Issac to be abducted by the demon and tortured in the hell dimension.

Okay! This has been really fun! I have one last question line for you and for me this is really an important one. Do you have any advice for people playing out romances? Do you have things you wished you knew before? Help them Renee-owan- kanobi you're their only hope!

Renee: I actually think the not knowing is the fun part of a rp relationship. If I compare Issac and Gewain (whom I wrote into Blanca's story myself) the former was so much more exciting because of all the discoveries you make about each other.

That said, for GMs and player who wish to add some romance to their chronicle I'd advise to only add if you already have good vibe together. If your chronicle is serious both players and GM will be very invested in the romance, which is fun but can also make it painful when your characters heart gets broken. 

Romances are a fun thing to explore, and you get a dynamic with your friend you wouldn't ordinarily get. 

Liz: Thank you Renee, you're awesome!